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University of Wisconsin-Parkside

The Penelopiad
by Margaret Atwood


Directed by Fabrice Conte-Williamson

Scenic Design by Jody Sekas
Lighting Design by Jessica Baker

Costume Design by Leslie Vaglica

Sound Design by Kevin Gray

Props by Bianca Gonzalez

Hair & Makeup Design by Isabella Cernuska

Intimacy Direction by Erin Dillon

Photo credit: Alyssa Nepper and Laura Mason


The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, 2021.




Last season, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UW-Parkside continued producing live theatre by embracing multi-camera streaming technology. In these extraordinary conditions, seven memorable productions successively unfolded on our stages—a true testament to the dedicated work and many talents of our students, faculty, and staff. Although this past year was filled with rich and fulfilling human and artistic experiences, it is with incredible pleasure and unmatched trepidation that we are preparing, once again, to welcome you in our home. To celebrate the long-awaited return of a live audience, we have selected Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, an exciting contemporary play that embraces the most fundamental aspects of our art form: imagination, collaboration, and community. 

In The Penelopiad, Atwood boldly reimagines the ancient myth of Penelope, a character portrayed in Homer’s Odyssey as a patient and faithful wife awaiting the return of her illustrious husband, Odysseus, who has been away fighting in the Trojan War. In her re-telling, however, Atwood subverts the traditional narrative by empowering a dead Penelope—now haunting the halls of Hades—to tell her side of the story as she recalls her childhood, her marriage to the Greek hero, and her secluded life in Ithaca. Yet the author doesn’t allow Penelope to ruminate indefinitely on the unfairness that defined her royal life. Atwood rather surrounds her protagonist with a chorus of twelve maids who died while protecting her from the relentless suitors looking to replace Odysseus in her bed and on the throne. In this way, Atwood introduces yet another competing narrative: the unsettling perspective of young women—slaves—who, unlike Penelope, did not benefit from the advantages and protections offered by social and political power. If Penelope’s voice has been undeniably muffled by centuries of patriarchal traditions in storytelling, the maids’ voices have been erased altogether. Atwood wants everyone to speak up.

The artistic freedom inherently granted by a play like The Penelopiad demanded that our production process reflect our commitment to an uncompromisingly collaborative approach. Actors, designers, and technicians engaged in repeated workshopping sessions to create, devise, and refine every element in the show. As a result, our Penelopiad is the unified echo of many voices, a promenade through the crowded hallways of mythology, literature, and theatre, and the humble companion to the stories that have unfolded on stages across the world, every night, since the dawn of time. We’re glad you’re back in the theatre. We’ve been waiting for you.  

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